There’s no joy in Stone Mountain tonight. I’ve been forced to give up my beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle. My association with HD goes back about 70 years. My first exposure to these fine motorcycles came about in the late 1940s. My two buddies and I scraped up $25 from mowing lawns and doing other odd jobs. We spent that money to buy a war-surplus Harley-Davidson after WW-II. It was in bad shape, but it was beautiful to us. And we were proud. The first motorcycle into Berlin at the end of WW-II was a Harley. My dad help us keep it running and we three guys took turns riding it, each keeping it for about a week at a time. We sold it when we all went off to college. Then came the start of a career for me followed by a wife and then a couple of kids. That resulted in me working seven days a week and no time for motorcycles.
My next HD was in the mid ‘60s when I was able to buy a ten year old 1954 Harley-Davidson “panhead.” I loved that old bike. It leaked so much oil I carried an extra quart in one of raggedy saddle bags to “top it off” after almost every stop. I lost it in a divorce settlement. And I was out of the bike business for a few years. Then, a fellow at WSB put a notice on the bulletin board. He had a “like new” Honda 750 for sale for a thousand dollars. I offered him $900 and he turned it down. A year went buy and he posted the same bike for sale for $900. I offered him $800. He insisted he had to have $900 but “he would throw in some helmets and stuff.” I bought it and was riding again. But I really wanted another Harley. When that gets into your blood it doesn’t go away. So I rode my Honda out to HD of Atlanta. I saw the 1980 bikes in the showroom – and they had “drip pans” under them. Those old engines had changed over the years, but they still leaked oil. I just wasn’t going to go through that trouble again. So I traded my Honda 750 in on a Honda “Gold Wing.” It was a one of the last Gold Wings that was made in Japan and it came “clean,” just a basic bike. I had them put a windshield and a couple of saddle bags on it and I rode it all over America for ten years.
But my love of Harleys never ended. So in 1990 I went back to the dealer and they had updated those bikes (and the engine) remarkably. I bought a beautiful red “Softail.” From then on I traded for a new model every year. I had ridden motorcycles for 50 years and never had a serious accident. But, over the years I developed macular degeneration which basically means that I’m slowly going blind. MD is a progressively, incurable, and untreatable loss of vision. And over the last year my MD has gotten so bad that it has become dangerous for me to ride a bike. It’s not safe for me or for other drivers. So, with genuine tears in my damaged eyes I took my last ride today. Riding a motorcycle gave me a sense of freedom that nothing can replace. My riding days are over. I will miss riding a bike but I will always love Harley-Davidson. I’ve had the pleasure of riding the real thing for many joyful years.